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Feral hippos haunt druglord's estate

The animals of Pablo "drug kingpin" Escobar's private zoo have gone feral, and ten hippopotami now roam the grounds of his estate north of Bogata.
A dozen refugee children play in the grounds all day, and the hippos watch them from the lake. Only the tops of the hippos' massive, reddish-brown heads and their constantly twitching ears show above the water. If the children come too close to the shore, the hippos snort and bluster and open their jaws menacingly, or make a rolling dive, to scare them away...

The refugees, unfamiliar with the ways of the giant African herbivores, have tried repeatedly to fence them in with barbed wire to thwart their raids on the salt lick and keep them from upsetting the cows. But to a hippo, a barbed-wire fence is an annoyance, not an obstacle.

Link Discuss (via MeFi)

Texas prof won't recommend Creationist students for biomedical study

A prof in Texas is refusing to write letters of recommendation for further study in biomedical science unless his students aver a belief in evolution and disclaim a belief in Creationism. His students claim it's "religious bigotry."
The Web page advises students seeking a recommendation to be prepared to answer the question: "How do you think the human species originated?"

"If you cannot truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer to this question, then you should not seek my recommendation for admittance to further education in the biomedical sciences," Dini writes...

He argues that physicians who "ignore or neglect" the Darwinian aspects of medicine or the evolutionary origin of humans can make bad clinical decisions...

A scientist who denies the "fact" of human evolution, Dini writes, is in effect committing "malpractice regarding the method of science."

"Good scientists would never throw out data that do not conform to their expectations or beliefs," he writes.

Link Discuss (via MeFi)

The Last Real Carnival Sideshow?

The Erie Times News ran an interesting article about why the days of the classic carny freakshow are numbered. The article is set in the World of Wonders, one of the last "odditoriums" still on the carnival circuit.
"Thank God as a young boy I saw someone sticking a nail up their nose, or I would have a terrible life,'' said Apocalypse as he pulled a cigarette out of a metal Band-Aid tin. "You want to see a freak show? A guy sitting in a cubicle, staring into a computer all day, typing until he gets carpal tunnel syndrome, with a 'thank God it's Friday' coffee mug sitting on his desk. There's your freak show.''
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Big Privacy Stink Over Small Tech

Gillete announced a plan to embed radio-frequency identification tags in razors to foil shoplifters.
From Small Times: "A pilot is already under way at a Tesco store in Cambridge, England, which is testing whether a Gillette 'smart shelf' can use RFID to foil shoplifters (Gillette has found that if someone takes more than two or three packages of razors, they're probably stealing)."
People are freaked out that if more products become tagged, someone could drive by your house and gather a list of what you buy. The (current) reality though is that the RFID scanner has to be within three feet of a tag to read it. Personally, I'm more interested in the cool nano/micro-fluidic technique Gillete's RFID vendor, Alien Technology, developed to make these things on the cheap. Link Discuss

Mena's Tokyo Disneyland pix

Mena and Ben "Moveable Type" Trott recently took a biz-trip to Tokyo and got to spend an afternoon at Tokyo Disneyland/Disney Sea. Mena's posted a gallery of fantastic shots from the Parks. I am turgid with jealousy. I yearn to visit Japan, to see the Akihabara, to wander the alleys of Tokyo Disneyland, to buy a square watermelon from a vending machine. Link Discuss (Thanks, Mena!)

King Kukulele's Tiki Paradise

Here's an article I wrote for the LA Weekly about a guy named Denny Moynahan who is converting an abandoned building in Los Angeles into a Tiki-themed apartment complex. The Weekly didn't run any pictures, but I've got some here. Link Discuss

Wacko Jacko's nose game

Here's a little quiz for you. Can you pick which of the 15 noses belong to Michael Jackson? (I got 13 out of 15.) Link Discuss

Microsoft's SPOT watch uses FM radio signals

Interesting article about the way Microsoft's SPOT (smart peronsal object technology) watch will work.
Microsoft ... settled on a data rate of 12 kilobits per second. In a given day... more than 125 megabytes can be transferred in the radio broadcasts. Microsoft ... secretly cut deals with FM radio stations around the country to lease the sub-carrier spectrum... enough coverage to hit about 80 percent of the country, and all major metropolitan areas. Microsoft found a way to personalize the watches: giving each a unique identification number. Then, as the watch is receiving the DirectBand signals, it looks only for data associated with the ID number. Hence, your watch only stores data on the sports teams you like and discards the rest. And because the watch knows which radio station it is receiving the information from, it can use that knowledge to reset itself. For instance, if you travel to Dallas, the watch will pick up signals from the Dallas radio station and reset itself for the appropriate time zone.
Link Merc News Discuss

Email campaign to flush Rush shows promise

After listening to Rush Limbaugh call war protestors "anti-American," "anti-capitalist," and "communists," Vietnam war veteran Micheal Stinson started an email campaign to boycott Rush's show. So far Radio Shack, Amtrak, and Bose have stopped sponsoring the program. Personally, I don't care what happens to Rush's program. If his show gets killed (which I doubt it will) some other blowhard will take his place. Link Discuss

Fray Cafe 3 at SXSW

Derek sez, "The third-annual Fray Cafe has been scheduled for Sunday March 9, right after the SXSW Web Awards ceremony. If you were turned away last year when the venue filled up, rest assured that the venue is much larger this year -- The Mercury Lounge! Start practicing those stories." Link Discuss (Thanks, Derek!)

Stross and me on the WELL

Charlie "Hugo Nominee" Stross and I are having a two-week-long discussion on the WELL's public Inkwell.vue conference, in honor of the publication of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Even if you don't have a WELL account, you can join in by emailing questions to Charlie.
Social incentives are the most powerful forces in our world -- the reason you can't wear your underwear on your head is because of disapprobation. The most disruptive thing about the Internet is its ability to locate you in homogenous communities that embrace the same values as you, so that there's no dialectic in socail pressure: IOW, you can spend all your time in alt.underwear.on.my.head and never get the funny looks that would cause you to reconsider your fashion choices. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (except when it is, i.e., alt.big.nazi.idiots), but it is a powerfully disruptive thing.

Sidebar: in our second collaboration, "Flowers from Alice," we deal with uploaded "people' who can instantiate many copies of themselves in parallel. One of the interesting things about this is that it suggests that attention isn't necessarily a scarce resource -- if you need to do two things at once, you just make another copy to do it...

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Dumpster Diving: an experience not to be missed

This morning's Kuro5hin has a great article on the ins and outs of dumpster diving. I've always been fascinated by diving (and I've done a little myself -- see this Wired article I wrote). I recently got sent a copy of Dumpster Diving: The Advanced Course, How to Turn Other People's Trash into Money, Publicity, and Power, a Paladin Press book written as a follow-on to the classic "The Art and Science of Dumpster Diving." The hardcore divers I know are all a little on the intense side, filled with folk wisdom and radical philosophy about trash and politics, and the author of DD:TAC is no exception. The book is a kind of extended rant, alternating between fish-tales about the big, big dumpster scores, stories of inadvertent discovery of secret information that blows the lid off of political conspiracies, and love found and lost in the trash. The Paladin Press titles vary pretty widely in writing-quality, but this is definitely on the high-end of the scale, and the information is invaluable. As the landfills overflow and the moments of our lives grow ever more ephemeral, there is no experience more life-changing that dumpster-diving. I think everyone should spend a couple nights in the trash, at least once in their lives. Link Discuss

Big trouble on the funnies page

San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum is hosting an exhibit of controversy in comic strips, including both the offending strips and the hate-mail they generated.
A TIME LINE OF COMIC STRIP CONTROVERSY

1900s: The Yellow Kid and the Katzenjammer Kids are cited for bad influence on youth.

1910s: In Polly and Her Pals, the "new woman" dares to show ankle.

1930s: Little Orphan Annie creator Harold Gray ridicules labor and FDR's New Deal. Dick Tracy becomes the first action strip to depict violence in America's backyard.

1940s: In Li'l Abner, Al Capp kicks against the establishment.

1950s: Pogo creator Walt Kelly lampoons Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy.

1960s: On Stage introduces a black character; several papers cancel the strip.

1970s: "How come there's no blacks in this honky outfit?" asks Lt. Flap in Beetle Bailey. Garry Trudeau brings hashish and Watergate to the funnies in Doonesbury.

Link Discuss

Human sewage recycled into artificial ski-snow

An Australian ski-resort is recycling black-water (sewage) into artificial snow:
Waste from resort is converted into usable water in two ways, both at a recycling plant for initial treatment, and then separately through a three-step purifying process of UV light filtration, ozonation and ultra-filtration. The final ultra-filtration step removes all suspended solids from the liquid including all biological matter, alive or dead. The resulting water is even free of viruses, bacteria and spores from cryptosporidium or giardia. The treated wastewater is then used in conjunction with meltwater and creekwater from surrounding areas to create snow.
Link Discuss (via /.)

180,000 Canadian personal records AWOL from IBM

IBM, which operates data-archiving vaults in Canada, has lost a hard-drive containing the records for 180,000 customers of an insurance company. The records contain everything an enterprising identity thief needs, including Social Insurance Numbers, names, addresses, mothers' maiden names, beneficiaries and pre-authorized checking information. Link Discuss